Syrian expats head to the polls in presidential vote

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Syrian refugees ride on a truck with pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Zahrani near the southern city of Saida on May 28, 2014, on the way to the Syrian embassy to cast their ballots in the Syrian presidential elections. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Zayyat)

Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Updated at 6:01 pm: Three years into the bloody Syrian conflict, Syrian expatriates began voting in the presidential elections on Wednesday, with Syria’s embassy in Lebanon witnessing a high voter turnout.

Photographs of roads leading to the Syrian embassy in the town of Yarzeh showed traffic jams and crowds of pedestrians heading to the polls in the morning.

By midday, all the entrances to the Lebanese capital were blocked, causing long tailbacks, as thousands of Syrians descended on the embassy, mostly by foot.

The Lebanese army set up several barriers in the area for security purposes, and was confiscating any objects which could be use as weapons, including small flag poles carried by some voters. Several Syrians told Al-Mayadeen news channel that Lebanese security forces had beaten some of them.

According to Al-Jadeed TV, a number of people were injured or fainted in the large crowd. The news channel estimated that at least 100,000 people had gathered near the embassy for the occasion.

A foreign ministry source in Damascus told AFP that some 40,000 citizens were listed on the electoral register in Lebanon. Lebanon is home to more than a million refugees from Syria.

The Syrian embassy in Lebanon decided on Wednesday to extend the vote until Thursday in order to accommodate the large number of voters, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.

In the afternoon, the number of voters pouring into the capital decreased and the roads leading to the embassy were reopened upon hearing the extension news.

Incumbent President Bashar al-Assad, who is competing for his third seven-year term, is widely expected to win the election.

Two largely unknown candidates are also in the running: independent MP and former communist party member Maher Abdel Hafiz Hajjar, and Damascus businessman Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri, a member of the internal opposition tolerated by Assad's government.

Amid similar scenes in Jordan and under tight security, hundreds of Syrians voters on Wednesday lined up outside their embassy in Amman.

Around 30 anti-regime activists stood near the mission, chanting slogans and carrying a banner which read: "No to the killer's re-election."

"I came today to elect president Assad who deserves my vote. He proved to the world that Syria is strong under his leadership," said voter Mohammed Ahmed, 32, from the rebel-held northern city of Raqa.

"We came to express our love and support for Syria, which will become stronger after the election despite terrorism," said Dalia, 22, from Damascus, wearing military uniform and sunglasses.

The vote came two days after Jordan expelled the Syrian ambassador to Amman, prompting Damascus to announce it was kicking out Amman's charge d'affaires.

Jordan is home to around 600,000 Syrian refugees.

Several countries, including France, Germany, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, have banned Syrian expatriates from participating in the presidential election.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

Comments

Every body has the right to choose the person who can work for betterment of the country. Syrian people has fought for the betterment of his future and and finally their fight ends on the election day.

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